NASHVILLE -- It was in the wee hours past election midnight. Two Yellow Dog Democrats stood on the 27th floor balcony of a Nashville law firm. To the west they could see the outline of the hotel where Vice President Albert sat in a room wondering whether he was to be the bug or the windshield in this election.
Far down below and across the street, the two old Democrats could see the crowd huddled in the rain on the Legislative Plaza in front of the State Capitol. For hours this crowd had waited for Gore to walk out onto the steps of the War Memorial Building and tell them that he was, indeed, the windshield. Yes, Gore would assure them, it has turned out, indeed, to be a Bush bug smashed on the windshield of this ever so close election.
But that message never arrived. The hours ticked by and the bug was still smashed on the windshield, and nobody could make out the bug's name.
"What are you going to do tomorrow?" said one of the tired Yellow Dogs as he dragged his tired frame away from the balcony, toward the door and home and, finally, bed.
"I gonna find Ralph Nader and strangle him," said the other.
Indeed, it would seem that Nader might be the most despised man in American today. The numbers would seem to indicate that Nader, the Green Party candidate, ate into the Democratic vote enough in three states to tilt the election to Bush. On the surface, this would appear to be the case in Oregon and New Hampshire, and nowhere more so than in Florida.
If Nader's 96,701 votes in Florida had gone to Gore, the election would be over now, there would be no need for an agonizing recount and possible court fight, and Gore would be President. Thus, the anger of the old Yellow Dog on the balcony in Nashville, and the comparable spleen that might be poured upon Nader's name in the days to come.
And the Democrats, ask: for what? Nader fell far short of his goal of getting 5% so the Green Party could qualify for federal matching funds in the next presidential contest. The latest figures show Nader polling about 3%.
However, before that Yellow Dog strangles Nader he might want to talk to some of the professionals and do a bit more analysis. It will take several days of sifting through the votes and doing follow up interviews to find out just how damaging Nader really was to Gore.
Greg Wanderman, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Democratic Party, says that Nader was not that much of a factor, at least in Tennessee.
"Our polling," Wanderman said on the morning following the election, "indicated that not many of Nader's votes in Tennessee were coming from people who would have otherwise voted for Gore. I think they were mostly people who were disaffected with the system and may not have voted at all. Some of them may have been just people who hate the internal combustion engine and care about little else." In addition to the debriefing of the Nader vote, there is also on the morning after renewed speculation about the role and the future of the electoral college system. Among other things, if it turns out that Gore wins the popular vote and loses the electoral vote, there certainly will be renewed calls for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the electoral college.
Another line of speculation that ensued on the morning after was the debate about how much, if any, pressure can be brought to bear on electors to defect from their pledged positions and go with the popular vote. Twenty-three states do not require by law that electors vote the way they have pledged to vote
Some were even toying with the idea that Gore should be encouraged to mount a massive lobbying campaign to get electors to do just that. These speculators mused that, should Gore lose the Florida recount, he certainly should try that in the Sunshine State. What has he go lose, they ask.
Frankly, such a scheme has little chance of success. Each party's executive committee chooses the electors for that party on the basis of their loyalty to that party. In Florida, for instance, there would be 25 Democrat electors pledged to support Gore and 25 pledged to support Bush.
Since it's a winner take all system, Gore might have to convince as many as 13 Republican electors that they should bow to the popular vote mandate and force Florida's 25-vote block to go to him instead of Bush. That's almost impossible to imagine. Even if the rules allowed the 25 votes to be split up, Gore would face the task of convincing at least 10 Republicans to abandon their party and go with him. Again, not likely at all.
No, Gore's best bet right now is to hope the recounters examine the bug smashed on the windshield and determine that the word "Bush" is written on its side.